the division of reading groups... and parents

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by srfjeld, Sep 21, 2010.

  1. srfjeld

    srfjeld Companion

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    Sep 21, 2010

    I am a third year first grade teacher. In our school we are asked not to tell parents what reading group their kids are in, though parents inevitably ask and it's so frustrating to try and dance around the subject. I usually break and tell them.

    Is this common in all schools? If so, how do you get around it? I understand not wanting to perpetuate "oh, my son's in the high group!" and how that can come off as competitive within the group of classroom parents... but I believe most parents who ask are genuinely concerned and if their kids are in the lower reading group they want to be able to find tools to help their kids.

    thoughts... suggestions?

    thank you. :)
     
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  3. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    Parents are odd creatures.

    Part of it is pride. If their child is in the high reading group, they often want to be able to crow about it.

    Another part is fear. If their child is in the lower group, they worry that they'll never be able to be successful in life.

    Both are unreasonable, and parents who are really thoughtful or have studied any kind of child development can realize this (although they still may succumb to either emotion, since emotions regarding your own children aren't always reasonable in the first place). The reason they're unreasonable is because children really do develop at different rates, and just because a child is in the low group in 3rd grade doesn't mean anything with regards to what group they'll be in during 11th. It's not just the suprageniuses like Einstein and Mandelbrot (trivia: reportedly, Mandelbrot never learned the multiplication tables) who make spurts and plateaus -- nearly everyone does.

    If I were you, I might discuss the above, before telling them I'm not going to tell them whether their child is in the high group or low group, and cite school policy keeping you from doing so. If you're new, you could point out that you could lose your job since you don't have tenure. Then, give the parents suggestions on what they can do, and whether you think their progress during the year is what you'd expect (i.e., how well they're doing within their group).

    If they really want to play the child-comparison game, they can do it from other sources. But at least they'll have your warning that the game itself is faulty, and it may hit the back of their mind while they're feeling compelled to play it.
     
  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    My groups are fluid--a student may be in one group one week and a different one the next, depending upon what skill we are focusing on.

    I would advise, however, not to go against school policy; if parents are pressuring you refer them to the administration.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Absolutely abide by the school policy; refer them to administration.

    But, by the same token, I think the policy is WRONG.

    My daughter struggles with reading. I know that. I had her tutored over the summer, and will resume it as soon as the merry-go-round stops around here.

    Not knowing that a child needs help means the child doesn't get help.

    Sure, it means fewer problems on the administrative level. But it's not fair to those kids!

    Advise any parents who ask to see administration.
     
  6. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I am against telling about reading levels, however I would have no problem whatsoever giving a parent one of three answers. Your child is working below/at/above grade level. Of course, I could be more specific about what they are struggling with, but I would never say "Johnny is reading J books".
     
  7. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I am very specific with parents about areas in which their child needs to improve, "Michael's focus at the moment is on making text-to-text connections when he reads" or "Sarah is working on using context clues to help her understanding" and what we are working on in the classroom to assist.
     
  8. StarrShine2

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    I'm a reading teacher, and all my students know the letter level that is their independent level. While I agree, that you should do what your district policy requires you to do, I think it is a disservice to the children for them not knowing their level. In my opinion, the strategies and skills we teach students should be practiced in a book that they are capable of reading (a book on their independent level). If they have no idea of what that level is, how can they select an appropriate book?

    Just my thoughts..
     
  9. TeacherApr

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    I believe I'm pretty vague as far as labeling them.
    On the student's progress reports, the goals are listed for fall, winter and spring as far as how many words they should be reading in a minute. (For 2nd grade it's 90 by June) I write down each student's individual score and highlight where their goal should be.

    Yesterday, I had a parent ask me what her reading level was (meaning 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) I told her that our test doesn't figure it out that specifically but at 77 words a minute she is "right on track" and her reading abilities in 2nd grade are very strong right now. It satisfied the parent.

    seems like parents just want reassurance is all. If they are interested, that is a good sign so if their student is low be prepared to give them some suggestions they can do at home and reassure the parents the strategies you are doing to help their student become as successful as possible.
     
  10. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    We don't do reading groups.

    Tell parents that you are willing to discuss their child's progress but that you are not allowed to talk about what group they are in or to compare them to other children in your class.
     
  11. Lynnnn725

    Lynnnn725 Connoisseur

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    I would just be specific to that child's strengths and goals. I would say what you've noticed about him/her as a reader and what goals you have set (improve fluency/deepen comprehension/etc). I wouldn't mention any level.
    I have flexible guided reading groups and I make sure to tell the parents not to pay attention to the level of book coming home because we use different levels for various skills.
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Why are parents not allowed to know their child's reading group?

    I can see not discussing the other kids in the class, but why can't I have access to a basic piece of information about my child?

    If there's nothing to hide, then why the secrecy? This is my child we're talking about. If YOU know something about my child, then why can't I know that same information?

    I wouldn't accept that sort of a situation from his or her doctor, why is it acceptable from the teacher??
     
  13. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Alice, there is really no reason the specific reading level of Americant would be helpful to a parent. As I said before, I really wouldn't tell parents about the specific reading level their child is at. I am more than willing to tell them that their child is at/below/above grade level, and I am also more than happy to tell parents what their child's Literacy goals are in my class, and how we are working to meet them (and how the parent can help). Telling a parent that their child is a J is simply not helpful, and only causes parents to compare levels with each other. (Thiugh I don't use reading groups as much anymore either)
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    OK, so I know that Julia is on a G and Kelly is a J... you're right, it doesn't tell me much more than that Julia is behind.

    So why not share the information? If it was a B as opposed to a J, then I would realize that she's WAY behind the others.

    Again, if you have the information, why hide it from me?
     
  15. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    They should be picking good-fit books the same way we do! We don't have letters to tell us what books we can read! They need to be taught how to pick books that are a good fit for them, and simply telling them to pick from an I bin is doing them a disservice, IMO.
     
  16. KinderCowgirl

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    What I took from the OP's post was that the parent wanted to know what group as in: Tigers, Elephants, Lions or Jaguars. Most teachers when they do small group divide students up by level. My kids don't even know that-they just know that they come read/work with me on their skills. Parents want to know which of those groups their child is in, as halfateacher said it really doesn't tell them much. My "low" group is probably the same as an average group in another 1st Grade class. The kids/parents don't have to harp on where the child falls in the spectrum of ability compared with the other students, just what they specifically need to work on. That's really only something my admin and I need to know.
     
  17. monsieurteacher

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    But if I'm specific with you about what it is that Julia struggles with, how is a letter going to be any more helpful?

    I realize this may not be as much of an issue in big cities, but our neighbourhood can be quite close. It's even worse in the suburbs. Teachers who give out letter levels end up with parents comparing, and that's simply not helpful.

    It's part of the reason I've largely abandoned using the levelled Guided Reading books.
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm sorry, I think I'll have to disagree with the elementary school crowd here.

    If the level helps YOU, then why assume I can't make the same use of the information??

    Over the summer, Kira was tutored by a neighbor who teaches elementary school. She asked me Kira's reading level at the start of the summer, and of course I had no idea; you guys have read about the teacher she had last year.

    So Jeannie somehow worked it out, and found the level that Kira was comfortable with. She let me know which letter it was (I forget at the moment; it's been a brutal week at school.) And I was able to go online and find a site that had leveled readers (right term??) So, if Kira was a G, they listed a number of stories that were on level G.

    The information Jeannie gave me made it easier for me to help my child.

    Why does the teacher get to decide what I, as parent, "need to know"??? Shouldn't that be my call??
     
  19. KinderCowgirl

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    I don't think the OP is talking about a reading "level" I think the parents are asking to know which group they are in compared with the other students. I tell my parents the level and how many word per minute the child reads and what the goals are for 1st Grade, but I won't reveal to them if they are the highest or lowest reader in the class. I don't think that info is going to help the child at all self-esteem-wise either way.
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm not going to share that information with my 7 year old.

    But we're constantly bombarded with infomation about standardized testing, and about how our distirct compares with the others and what percentile and stanine our kids are in. So it's OK to compare them then.

    Again, whether the school feels it will help me or not, why can't I know how my student compares with the group as a whole??? I"m not asking how she compares with Emily or Sarah, but how she compares with the group as a whole?

    Besides, you and I both know that kids see right through those titles; they KNOW which group is the high and the low ones regardless of the names. Their self esteem has nothing to do with whether or not I have the information; they already know which kids can read better than they can.

    But I still think I should have the right to know how my kids compare with their peers. I simply do not understand the need for secrecy.
     
  21. kimrandy1

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    Alice, you aren't going to share, but believe me, there are parents who will.

    I am kind of on the fence here. I think that "on, below, above" gives most parents the information that they need. I think it's the below kids' parents who may need more information in order to help them...but telling them that the child is reading in a J book is not helpful to most parents. I think it's better to list specific skills and weaknesses: knows letter sounds but cannot blend them, has difficulty memorizing new sight words, has great fluency, etc.

    The best way to put it, if the parent NEEDS to know the specific level, is that "Emily is working in a J reader right now. She started the year in an A. The goal by the end of the year is that everyone reads comfortably in an M." But you don't need to share specifics of which group she's working in, which other kids are there, which books others are working in, etc. That's information that's private for THEIR parents. I'm not for secrets or anything, but I do believe in privacy.

    Our school has a fluid reading group policy. Before each novel, there is a pre-assessment, and the kids are grouped according to that. for instance, in 4th grade, we have 3 teachers. Each one runs 2 novel groups at a time (plus one run by GT), so there are a total of 7 reading groups, throughout the grade. My daughter, last year, worked with ALL of those teachers at some point, according to her needs as indicated by her preassessment....
     
  22. StarrShine2

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    The reason the child's reading level is important for a parent to know is for the reasons Alice is speaking of. The parent needs to know what types of books he/she should be buying for their child.

    If you look at some of the research, guided reading is such an important tool to use. By teaching students skills and strategies at their level, they become comfortable and hopefully proficient in these skills.
     
  23. 3Sons

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    If you do an assessment and record it anywhere, the parent has a legal right to the records. While the teacher doesn't necessarily have to give it to them, the school will. Denying the teacher the power to discuss it is being needlessly obstructionist. I'd also assumed the OP was talking about reading groups set up in class, which may be informal and more of a child comparison game.

    The reading level would indeed be helpful to many parents. You can find online sources that indicate the difficulty of specific books (ah, I see StarShine beat me to that).

    Kimrandy's post is pretty good, though I see no reason to hold back the letter-based reading levels until the parent asks. Also, I don't see Alice's question as so much about the specifics of other students, but more on general placement in the class. Top third? Middle third? Bottom third?
     
  24. kimrandy1

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    I'm not for holding back reading levels just for the sake of not giving parents information, but I don't see how it's helpful. To a parent, without a lot of additional explanation, to say that a kid is on a J is pretty much non-informational. What's a J? What's the expectation by the end of the year? What is considered average for the time of year? And it doesn't help the parent decide which books to buy a kid, or how to help them, or give them feedbacks on weaknesses and strengths. It's not as if they can go to Borders and buy a book on a J level. (or a 14 or an AR2 or whatever). That's why "on, above or below" is most helpful - you CAN go to Borders and buy a 3rd grade level book.

    I also don't like the idea of top, middle or bottom of class. That could be completely different depending on the skill set being taught right then, and it can change quickly, even from one unit to the next, based on a kid's previous knowledge and previous skillset. Not to mention that if you have a really high group in your room, the bottom third may be just as strong as the middle third in the room next door...so saying that the kid is in the bottom could worry some parents without proper cause.

    I think specific feedback on strengths and weaknesses is the best way to go.
     
  25. DrivingPigeon

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    Same here. I don't have a "high" or "low" reading group. I tell parents which skills they can help their child focus on.
     
  26. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Knowing she's a "J" means I can go HERE: http://www.readinga-z.com/book/guided-reading.php?level=j&context=all-books and find her something at her level.

    I found that site over the summer by googling "leveled readers." It wasn't all that hard to find.

    And if knowing the level isn't important, then why bother leveling?? Isn't it so you can find books of an appropriate level of difficulty?

    I think it's wrong to assume that the parents aren't smart enough to understand the explanation. If it takes a while to explain, then take a while. It's important.

    I don't think it's the teacher's decision just what information about MY child I NEED to know. I think that should be my call.
     
  27. Mrs.A

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    I'm amazed so many people don't share guided reading levels. In my district it's on the report card. The report card also includes the guided reading level gradient chart so parents can see where they are reading compared to grade level. I always give parents as much information as I can about their child's reading. I never talk about other kids in their group or compare them that way and I've never had a parent ask. As a parent I would be furious if I asked my child's teacher his reading level and they said they couldn't tell me.
     
  28. KinderCowgirl

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    My kids don't know they meet with me by levels, but they are young. They just know they come read with me and other children.

    I've seen teachers who tell parents there are groups 1, 2 and 3. 3's the best, 1's the worst and your child's in group 1. The parents harp on the kids to move up a reading group so they aren't in the lowest one. That's not easy for some kids to do and they just get frustrated and give up. This particular child was so depressed because they couldn't get out of Group 1. Kids grow in reading on so many different levels; they can be good at word calling and have no comprehension. To me, it doesn't benefit the parent at all to know specifically-they are in the lowest (or highest) group. I'm not talking about sharing leveled reading levels or skills to work on, but how your child compares to other students in the class-I see no reason for sharing that with a parent and I no problem refusing to do it when parents do ask.
     
  29. alschoolteacher

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    My school uses AR to determine the level that is told to the parents. Parents are very aware of the child's AR level. Parents and students are also aware that small groups are based on needs and will change frequently. I do not call the groups low, medium, and high. I assigned kids to groups according to my pre-assessment and told them to choose a name for themselves. They would be working together as a team to help each other improve in reading because we all have areas where we can improve. The kids already know who is high and who is low, they don't need me to point that out.
     
  30. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Wait, so because in your opinion some parents aren't doing a good job of parenting NO parents have access to information about their children??

    What you consider to be "harping" might be the parent's version of "encouraging."

    As a parent, its' incredibly discouraging reading these boards and finding the opinions that teachers seem to have towards us.
     
  31. StarrShine2

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    I guess the way I teach reading is a bit different than those who are classroom teaching since I mainly teach small groups as a pull out. When I push in it's usually whole class lessons.

    But for the students who are identified who see me for AIS services, their parents have full access to what I do. I've taught in a few different districts and I'm pretty consistent. The parents know what reading level their child is and they know where their child "should" be.

    Again, the reason for this, well there's a few. Like Alice said, parents like to purchase books that their child will be comfortable reading. Yes I do realize you cannot go into Barnes and Noble and ask for a J book, but you can look online for specific titles.

    As someone else posted, it is important for students to know how to select appropriate text other than just looking at a letter level. I understand the concern about "low" students feeling bad or comparing themselves to others on a higher reading level, but I truly believe it's important for them and their parents to know the level they are on.

    again, not trying to argue or anything, this is turning into a great discussion with lots of different thoughts and viewpoints!
     
  32. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Ding ding ding! Bingo! That's my feelings exactly! Research actually shows that students should be being taught HOW to pick a book that fits their reading level... not by selecting from a bin of J books, but by looking at the book, and making a judgement based on if they can read the words, and if they understand it.

    It is our job as teachers to guide them as they find these books. Alice, you can google the reading level, but does knowing that Kira is a J tell you what she is specifically struggling with? I could have several students reading at a "J" level... one could be struggling with fluency, while one struggles with comprehension, and another may struggle with decoding the words. Telling a parent that their child is a "J" is absolutely useless. It has nothing to do with thinking that parents are unable to comprehend what a "J" means, but it has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that the letter itself is meaningless.

    As I've said, I am all for giving MORE helpful information. But would you as a parent rather I just said Kira was a "J" and left it at that?

    Ultimately, if a parent was REALLY adamant about knowing their child's level, after I had already given the specific needs of their child, I don't understand why they are asking OTHER than to brag to the other parents.

    In my mind, a reading level is worthless, and is simply something I'm required to put with my provincial exams.
     
  33. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I also wanted to address this. As someone who has always respected your opinion (and usually agreed with you), I find it offensive that the fact that I disagree with you, based on several PD sessions, conferences, and professional books, means that I have a problem with parents.

    I can accept the fact that we disagree philosophically, and I don't see how my philosophy of sharing detailed information about a student's reading ability with a parent, as opposed to a meaningless level, is at all harmful to a student.
     
  34. texteacher

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    I think another issue you must consider is that if you tell one parent that her kid is in the "low group" then you're also pretty much giving away confidential information about the other kids. If Lizzie and Johnny are in the same group and Johnny's mom just found out he's in the low group, well then now we all know that Lizzie is low too. I think it's more valuable for parents to know specifically what their child is struggling in and how to help the child.

    I don't see a problem telling a parent what skills to work on, what level book to read, but telling them too much about the reading group is also giving away information about other students.
     
  35. KinderCowgirl

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    Just for the record-I think parents are awesome! I love my parents, couldn't do their job nearly as well without their support. They know exactly what their kids know and what they need to work on based on what they need to pass First Grade. I don't think parents need to know where their child stands in respect to the other kids. As I've stated before-just saying they are in the lowest reading group is not giving them information that is going to be helpful to that child. My lowest reading group is different from the lowest reading group of the classroom next door.

    The child I was talking about earlier was told every day that she better move up a reading group (something which really was beyond her control-she just didn't have the academic experience)-I consider that "harping". I'm not talking about the parent who wouldn't reveal that info to their child (which you indicated you would not do) or the one that sits down with them each night to help them. I'm talking about the parent who puts ALL the emphasis on highest/lowest group instead of strengths weaknesses of their child. As I've said before-I think we're talking about 2 different things. I'm not talking about the level of reader they are on-but where they fall in the class spectrum of ability.
     
  36. UVAgrl928

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    I've gotta agree with Alice on this one. If I have a parent that wants to know what level (not group in my classroom, because my groups are constantly changing and they don't really need that info) their child is reading on, I have no problem telling them. Whenever I do happen to give their level, I explain to the parent what it means.

    I had a parent that was really discouraged that I sent home a summer school form for her child a few years ago. So I pulled out his level he started at, and where he ended. Even if a parent doesn't understand levels, they can understand progress. I pointed out that child X had started the year at a 4, and ended the year at a 20 (which was just below grade level). So though he was below grade level, we were able to close that gap to a much smaller one. I think most parents can understand that.
     
  37. UVAgrl928

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    How do you do reading then? I guess I have never really seen reading done as a whole group... that's got to be hard to do!
     
  38. kimrandy1

    kimrandy1 Enthusiast

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    I completely agree. I can't believe that you'd rather have information like "your kid is a J" than "your kid has a great grasp of word famlies, but needs to work more on silent e words. Her fluency is on grade level, but her comprehension is below, so it's best to choose books a little easy for her and ask her questions of understanding when she's finished." Which one is more useful?

    And, not to mention, if we're working on phonics, the kid may really be reading a J at that time, but when we move to comprehension, she may be working in an E. Or an M. And if we're covering something that your kid already has aced, she may be working on a supplemental novel that's not even letter-labeled.

    I think the problem here is not that I am thinking parents are dumb, as you suggested, but quite the opposite. I believe in giving them the most helpful information, not just a simple label. I think they can best help their child if they know the most about them.
     
  39. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    Sep 23, 2010

    The teacher doesn't need to tell Johnny's mom that Lizzie is in the same reading group. That Johnny's mom knows because she's talked to Johnny is irrelevant.

    I think more information is better, of course, but it's not like you can only do one or the other. It takes a couple of seconds to say, "Jenny is reading on a J level right now", and only a few more to explain that's based on the specific skills that are being worked on at the moment. The only real justification I see for avoiding saying the level is if you're really so against it that you yourself don't use or record it anywhere. If you record it but only because it's school policy, then in a sense when you don't give it to the parent you're enforcing your personal view of education on them.

    Fear. The parent doesn't know if "Your child needs to work on blends and silent-e sounds" is typical for the age or not. Even if you say it is on-grade level, parents in wealthy areas know that "grade-level" is an average that includes a cross-section, and probably isn't anywhere close to where they would hope their child to be.

    Also, being given a specific level gives the parents some reassurance that a breezy, "He's doing fine in reading" isn't really code for, "He doesn't give me any behavioral problems." (I know -- certainly all of you separate the two. But some pretty weird things can go through parent's heads.)

    I'd point out, though, that really if a parent is doing the kind of job one would hope they are, the teacher's specifics are likely redundant, especially at the early elementary level. Because I read with my kids regularly (and with my older son, monitor what he's reading for both school and pleasure), I know quite well what they're good at and what they aren't.
     
  40. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    Sep 23, 2010

    I teach 15 kids. So I don't do reading groups. I pull the kids back each day individually or in groups of 2/3. The groups of 2/3 change daily. I share test results several times a year. I use many evaluation tools that I share with parents regularly. I am sure no one on this site would withhold information from parents, but depending on the parent, the situation, and the understanding...we might limit what is said. For example, I have two teachers' children in my class. I will share more details and test scores with them. For my parents I fill out a form with skills that are mastered, skills that are improving, and skills that concern me. For most this is all they want. The part of the form that most parents like is the part where I give them specific games and activities to help their child. While they might not understand the results, they understand the ways to help their child.
     
  41. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Sep 23, 2010

    I believe there are many students who pick up on what group they are in when it comes to low, middle, and high. This can and has been used as bullying tactics by other kids. Parents do need to be aware of placement in the class especially if there are many high level kids and just a few low level kids. Regardless of whether or not the low level kids are on grade level, they will know they aren't up to par with the other kids. Parents armed with this knowledge can bolster self-esteem by helping their child see areas of strength within themselves. It can also allow parents to understand attitudes of their child who feels as if they aren't measuring up or avoid reading because they feel they aren't successful.
     

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